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It is not often that journal policy is dictated by input from the readership. A notable exception to this probably occurred in the ANZ Journal of Surgery in 2002, following a letter to the editor in 2001 addressing authors’ qualifications.1
In it we pointed out that journal aspirations to international recognition and increased circulation may be enhanced by having the authors’ qualifications consistently published. We indicated that the qualifications of one’s international colleagues, including departmental heads where one may have trained overseas, can be recognised. The educational progress of one’s colleagues—for instance, a clinician’s higher qualifications (for example, PhD) may be determined. We pointed out that the reader can determine whether the author is in effect a qualified ophthalmologist, a resident, or still a medical student. In some parts of the world, the rivalry between optometrists and ophthalmologists may be highlighted by one group publishing in the other’s journal. Thus, qualifications may be used to discriminate between the two groups. Where the qualification discriminates between physicians and surgeons, this too can be recognised. In these days of enhanced medicolegal confrontation, a medical practitioner’s viewpoint can be differentiated from that of a lawyer.
Finally, we pointed out that if the author qualifications are designated, the reader may be quite sure that the article was not written by the medical records librarian, let alone the hospital trolley boy in a moment of inspiration.
We have observed that in recent issues of the BJO, there appears to be an inconsistent approach to appending qualifications. Only the corresponding author is liable to be given a qualification; the first author usually goes without. For example in volume 88 number 5 (May 2004), in the perspective, only the corresponding author, Azuara-Blanco writing on cannabinoids and glaucoma received a qualification.
In the extended reports, only Miyamoto on oil droplets in rabbits, Shaarawy on day one intraocular pressure, Orgul on blood flow in glaucoma, and Probst on fibronectin in diabetes received recognition. This means that the authors of all the other extended reports missed out. In other words, in this issue of the journal, only one third of the corresponding authors, let alone the co-authors of extended reports, are given their qualifications. No one in the letters section was designated with a qualification. None of the three editorial writers received a qualification. We are left wondering as to whether Professor König, writing on the cost effectiveness of treatment for amblyopia, was a paediatric ophthalmologist branching out into community medicine, a medical politician, a health economist, a statistician, or a psychotherapist having a different weekend. Whatever he is, he reached a reassuring conclusion in his article, that amblyopia therapy is “likely to be very cost effective.”2 We also do not know whether Schwab, writing about the cover illustration “Halcyon days,” with the university affiliation of UC Davis, was an artist, the university photographer, an ornithologist, an anthropologist, or a Greek mythologist.3 In the article on postoperative leak in trabeculectomy, Henderson can be recognised as a surgeon by the British appellation “Mr.” We thus presume he has an FRCS or an FRCOphth, but we don’t really know.
Our point is made. As we demonstrated in our original article,1 89.5% of the 19 journals regularly read by us use author qualifications. A journal of the integrity, breadth, and currency of the BJO should, in our view, append author qualifications in 2004.